Our Present Food Epidemic: High Glycemic Foods

By Jeff Grimm, NP

We now know that foods high in sugar age us faster. Our diet has many times the amount of sugar as compared to 2oo years ago. In 1800, the average american consumed 18 pounds of sugar a year. The figure in 2009 was 180 pounds of sugar! We are literally consuming 10x the amount of sugar in our diets as compared to 200 years ago. Since 1975, the rates of obesity in the US have doubled. In 1980 1 out of every 10 children were overweight, now the figure is 1 in 4! The sequellae of this type of diet include diabetes, heart disease, cancer, arthritis and reduced lifespan.

The problem is that food sold in stores and served in restaurants is very high in sugar, especially high fructose corn syrup (an ingredient which may be single handedly responsible for the obesity and diabetes epidemics). Food that is the worst for our health is often the cheapest, most advertised, and most widely available. Good food tends to be expensive and harder to find.

Our health suffers from foods with low nutritional value. Most health and medical organizations now recommend 6-10 servings per day of fresh fruit and vegetables to prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease. We know that most Americans struggle to get even a couple of servings of these healthful foods into their diet.

Sugary foods rob the body of vital nutrients while putting stress on the internal organs, especially the pancreas. As insulin levels rise in response to sugar in the diet, inflammatory cascades are set in motion and sugar is stored as fat. Chronic systemic inflammation is one of the key causes of heart disease and cancer.

When consuming high glycemic foods, cholesterol goes up, inflammatory markers go up, and the body becomes less sensitized to the effect of insulin.  Weight is gained, hormones become imbalanced, and protein and sugars cross-link becoming glycated (damage by glycation results in stiffening of the collagen in the blood vessel walls, leading to high blood pressure). Glycations also cause weakening of the collagen in the blood vessel walls, which may lead to micro- or macro-aneurisms; this may cause strokes if in the brain.

The Glycemic Index: See this link for a complete list of foods with their corresponding Glycemic Index. In general, try to eat foods with a Glycemic Index of less than 50.


Jeff Grimm  MS NP-C